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The Mecca of Medical Care, Safdarjung Hospital Completes 75 Years of its Existence

A glorious journey from being The American Hospital to becoming Safdarjung Hospital and sooner turning into Safdarjung Medcity!

The OPD of Safdarjung Hospital, New Delhi
The OPD of Safdarjung Hospital, New Delhi

New Delhi: For people residing in Northern India, Safdarjung Hospital is one such medical institution that they either have visited or been recommended to or only heard of for its never-say-no philosophy for providing medical care.

To everyone’s pride, this year Safdarjung Hospital, New Delhi is completing 75 years (platinum jubilee) of its existence.

Dr Anil K Rai, Medical Superintendent, Safdarjung Hospital, New Delhi
Dr Anil K Rai, Medical Superintendent, Safdarjung Hospital, New Delhi

Dr Anil K Rai, medical superintendent, Safdarjung Hospital, proudly told India Medical Times, “The hospital is important for people across Delhi and Northern states, who come here for getting medical treatments. The institution has many milestones in its bag, achieved over 75 years.”

The reason behind popularity of Safdarjung Hospital is that its services are almost free, except for some minor charges for CT Scan and a few other investigations. There is no fee for consultation and operative procedures; even the drugs are provided almost free. If the poor patients need costlier treatment, they have to show their BPL (Below Poverty Line) card and the treatment cost gets almost funded by the government. This is how the hospital contributes to the society.

Dr Yatish Agarwal
Dr Yatish Agarwal

“We attend to 9,000-10,000 patients daily in OPD (outdoor patient department) and around 2,500-3,500 patients are always there in our wards, which officially has a bed strength of only 1,531. We have a philosophy and record of not turning any patient back who need the admission. Being a flagship hospital of the government of India, pressure is many folds,” Dr Yatish Agarwal, professor, department of diagnostic radiology and imaging, Safdarjung Hospital and Vardhman Mahavir Medical College (VMMC), told IMT.

Did You Know the History of Safdarjung Hospital?

The hospital, earlier known as The American Hospital, came into existence in 1942. After the end of the World War II, the injured soldiers of the allied forces needed emergency treatment. Then, the US Army Medical Corps and the Air Force Medical Divisions had built many field hospitals, station hospitals and general hospitals for the injured soldiers. And one of them was the 100th Station Hospital in Delhi, which was built close to the city’s lone airstrip, the Wellington Airfield (now known as Safdarjung Airport). In May 1942, this 150-bedded hospital was constructed under the supervision of Col Robert P Williams, MC, the General Stilwell’s staff surgeon. After the war ended, the Independent Government of India decided to dedicate the wartime American Hospital to its people.

Later on, the hospital was named ‘Safdarjung’ after the Mughal general Abul Mansur Mirza Muhammad Muqim Ali Khan, who ascended the throne of Awadh on March 19, 1739, and was honoured with the title of ‘Safdarjung’ by the Mughal Emperor Muhammad Shah. The emperor Abul Mansur Mirza believed in charity and catering to the noble belief, the mission of the hospital came out to deliver free and affordable healthcare to every child, woman and man.

Milestones Achieved

Safdarjung Hospital has been the hub of medical education and learning since the beginning. Dr Anil K Rai informed, “The first few batches of AIIMS were provided clinical training at the premises of this hospital. After that, the hospital accommodated 243 beds. Then in 1972, the University College of Medical Sciences (UCMS) was introduced and later it was shifted to East Delhi during 1986-89. Since then the hospital has trained 100 students per year.”

In 2002, a new medical college, called ‘Vardhman Mahavir Medical College’, was opened in the Safdarjung Hospital premises. There are many firsts in the Indian medical history that happened in Safdarjung Hospital, such as the concept of nursery and paediatric surgery was first initiated at Safdarjung and microvascular flap surgery in Northern India was first done at this hospital. Prominent surgeries in orthopaedics, such as hip surgery, were first operated in this institution.

“Safdarjung Hospital is also the initiation centre for the artificial limbs, which was later shifted to Kanpur and developed as the Artificial Limbs Manufacturing Corporation of India (ALIMCO),” said Dr Rai.

The hospital is also the first centre where nuclear medicine commenced in India, with Brig Mazumdar being the pioneer.

Dr R S Sethi
Dr R S Sethi

Dr R S Sethi, head of nuclear medicine department at Safdarjung Hospital, told IMT, “The first radio iodine therapy for thyroid was given in Safdarjung Hospital. Thereafter due to change in government policies, new equipment couldn’t be procured and only blood tests for thyroid functions used to be done. In 2007, I got appointed here and then three years later, we were able to establish advanced nuclear facility. In June this year, PET scan will also be available at this state-of-the-art nuclear medicine department.”

Keeping in the mind the healthcare and fitness need of Indian sportspersons, the first sports injury centre of India was also established at Safdarjung Hospital in 2010. The first sleep laboratory of India was also developed here under the guidance of Prof J C Suri.

Future Plans

Two new buildings, for the purpose of emergency and super speciality, have already been constructed in the premises of Safdarjung Hospital, which, according to Dr Rai, may become functional in the coming months. “Yes, the emergency building is almost complete and now we are waiting for the hiring of the manpower. As per the plan drawn by the NBCC (National Buildings Construction Corporation), which was approved by the old Planning Commission, the whole area of the hospital will have to go under phase wise development process,” said Dr Rai.

“For example, when the emergency centre will shift to its new building, the existing block will be demolished and a new building will be constructed for the maternal and child healthcare at that place. When it gets ready, the maternal and child healthcare centre will be shifted to the new constructed building and at its existing place, a new building will be built for the orthopaedic centre and the process will go on for other speciality centres. Similarly, the whole campus will go under demolition for the purpose of development and renovation in a phase wise manner, so the patient care should not suffer and we shall grow,” Dr Rai explained.

“After the phase wise development, the left out buildings will be the OPD centre, the college building and the library building,” added Dr Rai.

As far as the facilities are concerned, the new buildings are planned to have the state-of-the-art infrastructure. There are about 15 operation theatres (OTs) for major surgeries and two minor operation theatres, 70-bedded ICUs, 69-bedded triage area, 50 single-bed rooms, 300-bedded general ward with 6 beds in each cubicle, facility for CT scan, MRI, plaster room, DSA (digital subtraction angiography), orthopaedic surgery, general paediatric surgery, ENT surgery all within the premises of the emergency building. From OT, a patient will be directly shifted to ICU, depending upon the intensity of the surgery. All these facilities at the emergency centre are free of any cost, except a few blood investigations.

“The super speciality building has been built at the back side of the hospital. It will have 800 beds, out of which 200 beds will be private wards,” said Dr Rai.

Dr Yatish Agarwal added, “The plan is to make ‘Safdarjung Medcity’. The old structures will be demolished since they have outlived their utility. The faculty strength and nursing strength will also increase.”

On being asked whether there are any plans for celebrating the hospital’s platinum jubilee, Dr Rai answered, “There is shortage of funds for the celebration since the government has given maximum possible funds for the healthcare of patients and celebration has no role in the patient care.”

by Priyanka V Gupta

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